The lives of the unborn in Northern Ireland will continue to be protected from liberal abortion laws, following a victory in the UK Supreme Court.
Campaigners welcomed the court’s decision to uphold the existing law not to offer free abortions to women travelling from Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland law provides robust protection for unborn children. Abortion remains illegal except in cases to preserve the life of the mother.
Under devolution, separate authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for provision of NHS services to those living there.
The Supreme Court decision was reached after judges heard the case of a mother and daughter from Northern Ireland who travelled to England seeking a free abortion.
Delivering the verdict, Lord Wilson said that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was right to respect “the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland not to fund abortion services”.
When the Northern Ireland Department of Justice held a public consultation on proposals to liberalise abortion laws, the overwhelming majority of respondents rejected any change in the law.
Pro-life group The Iona Institute said the Province “should be proud of its life-saving abortion law”.
It added: “At a time when scientific advances have given us an amazing ‘window’ into babies in the womb, we are right to continue to reject the permissive British abortion model.”
Liam Gibson, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, praised Northern Ireland’s resistance to pressure from those wanting to legalise abortion.
He said failure to do so “would inevitably result in killing of babies on a massive scale, just as it has in the rest of the UK”.
Right to life
He described claims that access to abortion is a human right as “entirely false”, before adding that the right to life is the “most fundamental of all human rights” and applied to “all human beings, regardless of age or stage of development”.
The number of women travelling from Northern Ireland to the UK for abortions has fallen substantially in the last ten years, and the figure is at its lowest since abortion’s legalisation in 1967.